I Can't Finish With My Partner, And Here's Why That's OK
Ashley Batz/Bustle

I recently dated a guy who I couldn't finish with during sex. We had a good amount of sex. I liked him a lot, we had great chemistry and the foreplay was hot AF. But not to keep score or anything — because scorekeeping when it comes to sex never gets you anywhere good — out of all the times we had sex, he came 100 percent of the time, while I barely orgasmed maybe two or three times. But I'm not alone here.

A recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found a huge orgasm gap between straight women and everyone else. While 95 percent of straight men and 86 percent of lesbians say they usually or always orgasm, only 65 percent of straight women can say the same.

While some tend to get concerned that they're unable to finish with their partner, I'm not. After some reassuring, neither was he. "People need to stop thinking of their sex life as a series of individual sexual encounters which have to be judged on their own merit, as either a pass or a fail," certified sexologist and relationship therapist, Kelly McDonnell-Arnold tells Bustle. Instead, you need to think of your sex life as more of a journey where you learn more about each other, become more intimate, and learn to let go of the things that don't really matter. Like achieving an orgasm every time.

"Flexibility, change, and unpredictability are what keep a long-term sexual relationship alive and exciting," she says. So just because you're in a relationship and having sex often, it doesn't mean you're guaranteed to have an orgasm every single time. Some people can always finish with their partner, others can only do it sometimes, and some just can't or haven't been able to altogether. But you know what? It doesn't have to be a big deal. If you're someone who can't ever finish with a partner, here's why that's OK:

1Orgasms Don't Have To Be The End Goal

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I am all about closing the orgasm gap just as much as much as the next person. But orgasms should never be thought of as the end goal. In fact, research has found that thinking sex should always end in an orgasm can have emotionally damaging effects on a relationship if one partner can't finish. It's not hard to imagine why. For the most part, everyone wants to feel like they're good in bed. But the definition of "good" differs from person to person. "When orgasms become the goal every time you have sex, then every time you're together you'll end up feeling like you're being given a grade (i.e. pass or fail)," McDonnell-Arnold says. "Doing so only adds another level of stress to sex that it wasn't designed to have."

As soon as you make it your goal to finish every time, it automatically becomes less likely that you will, she says.

2Instead, Sex Should Be About Building Intimacy

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"When couples or individuals come to me asking questions that concern problems and dissatisfaction with orgasms, one of the first things I suggest is to shift focus from orgasm to the overall act of intimacy," McDonnell-Arnold says.

Intimacy is what makes you feel connected to your partner — and it's not determined by how many orgasms you have. "You just have to enjoy being together, laugh, and have fun," she says. "If you can’t laugh, you're too uptight, and you’re doing it wrong."

3Some Positions Aren't As Orgasm-Friendly As Others

Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle

Everyone has their sex position of choice. Some women prefer missionary, others like being on top, and then there are those who like to get creative. It's important to know that the way you or your partner like to have sex may not be the best for female orgasms. For instance, if doggy style is your position of choice, it's great for hitting the G-spot and for those who can finish on vaginal penetration alone. But it's not so great for stimulating the clitoris.

If you want some female-orgasm friendly positions, a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found there's a  "golden trio" of sex moves that can boost your chances. According to the study, it's all about incorporating a mix of genital stimulation, deep kissing, and oral sex.

4You Might Have To Sacrifice An Orgasm For A Little Adventure

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When you like to get creative with your sex life, you may sacrifice an orgasm or two. For instance, when I was with my ex, he was all for doing it in more adventurous locations like on the roof of his apartment building. Before him, I haven't had sex in weird places since college. Even though I didn't orgasm, I never saw having fun as a consolation prize. Plus, the spontaneity of those moments had a way of bringing us closer together since it was just something the two of us shared.

5There Are Many Ways To Feel Pleasure That Don't Involve Orgasms

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There are two goals of sex, Heather Claus, the owner of DatingKinky.com tells Bustle. One is to experience intimacy, and another is to experience pleasure. "Orgasms are one way to help further those goals, but not the be-all-end-all," she says. "In fact, there are many ways to feel pleasure that don't involve orgasm."

A really great way to do that is to give your partner a massage, she suggests. Even a non-sexual one can feel amazingly pleasurable. You can learn all of your partner's erogenous zones through your massage, and as a bonus, touching can even help increase intimacy. "It's incredibly thrilling to hear your partner tell you how much they adore you," she says. "While you run your hands over your partner's body, talk to them, telling them how much their body drives you wild, how you can't get enough of them, touching them, loving them. This is not just physical sensation, but adds closeness, because you are communicating your desires on another level."

Another idea? Read some erotic lit while touching each other. You can also play a game like Touch Me Like This, Touch Me Like That, where you give your partner pleasurable touches and strokes with your hands, lips, tongue, teeth or even toys, while their eyes are closed. You can learn new things about each other, or even just release some oxytocin by holding each other. "Combine any of these ideas together, to add layers of pleasure and enjoyment," she says.

6It's OK If Both Partners Believe It's OK

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When my ex realized I wasn't going to finish anytime soon when he was already done, he felt bad. I, on the other hand, never felt torn up about it. Instead, I'd just finish myself off and let him watch. He always ended up enjoying that.

Sexually, there wasn't anything wrong with either of us. We were also pretty compatible with what we liked in bed overall. But for some reason, it just didn't happen with us most of the time. So after reassuring him that everything was OK, he finally became OK with it too. We focused more on having fun and experimenting, which I think was a lot more sexually satisfying than trying to make me come — that can be super exhausting and frustrating for both parties if nothing's happening.

You shouldn't compare your sexual experience to anybody else's. That's one way to make you feel like your sex life sucks regardless of whether you orgasm all the time or not. So if you're cool, you're partner's cool, then your sex life should be great just as it is.

7But If You're Starting To Feel Like It's Not, Don't Worry

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Things only become problems when you make it one. So if you can't orgasm with your partner and it's becoming distressing to either of you, then you definitely need to discuss it. If it's a problem that you both want to fix, you can do it. It's important to know that orgasming with a partner just doesn't come naturally to some. "It's just like any skill," Claus says. "Some people are better at learning 'the knack' of it than others."

And if you don't? Know that you can still have an amazing sex life.